(Ed note: Bumped. for being awesome content.)
I was originally going to title this "Rank Michigan's Most Intense Rivalries from First to Third," but that kind of seemed pointless after I thought about it for a second. No one is going to dispute that Ohio State is Michigan's most intense rivalry. Even if we did have a poll where you ranked the rivalries, I'm betting no one would have selected the options where either Notre Dame or Michigan State were No. 1.
So if no one is going to dispute that Ohio State is the No. 1 rivalry, the question then naturally becomes: Well, then who's No. 2? This makes the ranking issue a lot more succinct anyway. If you think Notre Dame is No. 2, then Michigan State is obviously No. 3, and vice versa.
What I hope to do here is to start a discussion that sort of explains the differences between Michigan's rivalries with Michigan State and Notre Dame. The poll will obviously be the crux of this, but hopefully some fans can share a comment or two. Ideally we'd like to discuss what each of the rivalries means for you personally.
We'll look at the rivalries more in-depth after the jump...
Let's start with Michigan State.
Obviously an in-state rivalry means that for any local fans (i.e. from the state of Michigan), this one hits pretty close to home. Of course, even that presupposition can not be entirely presupposed, because it all depends on the area of Michigan where said fan lives.
Seth over at MGoBlog summed up this axiom nicely:
Out-of-staters are bewildered that so much attention is paid to a mid-season, in-state rivalry that stands at 67-31-5. Really it's not even a full-state rivalry, as the west is pretty much blue or Notre Dame. Those who grew up in Ann Arbor don't see what the big deal is either. It's mostly about Detroit, where Michigan fans are seldom more than 10 feet from a Spartan, where classes of 10-year-olds are 70% Michigan fans and only 10% of those will get in.
So, essentially, you're probably seeing more Spartans in areas like Metro Detroit, Oakland County, West Bloomfield, than in areas like Battle Creek or Grand Rapids. This makes sense since Battle Creek and Grand Rapids are closer to South Bend.
Even when I was in Ann Arbor as a student of U of M, and whenever I went home (Auburn Hills), I was surprised by the number of Spartan fans who had come out of the woodwork now that Dantonio has put together a half-way decent team. I can't remember a time when I saw this many casual Spartan fans other than the die-hards who have green State flags on their lawn and stuff.
I went to a high school in West Bloomfield, and it wasn't intense there until Michigan State went 11-1 in 2010 and I came back to see that a lot of my former classmates were breaking out the green gear. Then it really became a "You're either Green or you're Blue" thing.
Obviously, one of things that has really taken this rivalry up a notch is the fact that Dantonio hates Michigan with every fiber of his being. This might have had something to do with Lloyd Carr practically never losing to Michigan State and running back Mike Hart deciding to dish out some serious smack talk after the 2007 game:
Yeah, that might have had something to do with it. Not surprisingly, Dantonio took it personally:
Now, I don't know if the Spartans just use that every year for motivation or if Mike Hart's "Little Brother" comment has been the Mother of All Jinxes, because Michigan hasn't beaten Michigan State since he said that. I also don't know how I feel about it. On one hand, hindsight tells me to say "Jee, thanks a lot, Mike." The other kind of likes the swagger that Mike Hart had because he articulated what a lot of Michigan fans were thinking.
When I was a student at Michigan, I often had football discussions with a hot dog vendor named Leroy, and I asked him which rivalry he thought was the second-most intense after Ohio State. I was obviously a proponent of Michigan State as the No. 2. A girl overheard our conversation and said "Michigan State is not our rival. They only think they're our rival."
To which I was all like this:
Forgive me for sounding condescending here, but Michigan State is a rival. It might have been true when John L. Smith was at the helm and the Spartans couldn't manage anything beyond a laughable 6-6 season. It might have been true when they played their little hearts out but were no real threat to Michigan, but that's kind of not true now. Michigan State has won four in a row. If that doesn't make you respect a rival, nothing will.
Part of it also might been of where I come from personally. About half of the students in my high school class ended up going to Michigan State, and they brought the rivalry home with them, which was... always fun.
It's pretty obvious that Hoke has the turn the tide of the rivalry this year, or those fans will be even more insufferable. I do like talking about the recruiting gains, especially when State fans wanted those guys. I still can't believe how much Hoke has established a foothold on the state of Michigan, securing the best players. All that really tells me is that no one did more for Michigan State recruiting than Rich Rodriguez.
One of the few football programs I still respect, although the incident with Declan Sullivan worried me about Kelly's decisions in the program. When Ohio State cancels practices because the winds are too dangerous, and you don't... that's a really, really bad sign. Let me repeat that: Ohio State thought it prudent to cancel practice that day. Brian Kelly didn't. Worry-o-meter: High.
Especially high since Brian Kelly was one of the coaches some Michigan fans thought should replace Rich Rodriguez. Glad that never panned out. I'm fine with Brady Hoke, thank you very much.
Anyway, back to the rivalry. You might be inclined to think that Notre Dame isn't quite as intense as Michigan State for the simple reason that Michigan has won the last three contests in a row. However, some people believe that the history of competitiveness between the two schools is the reason why that rivalry is second only to Ohio State. (This was what Leroy the vendor believed when I asked him.)
Which, y'know, when you think about it, there's a lot of truth to that. Of course, this becomes doubly more intense if you also happen to like a lot of what Notre Dame has in respect to Michigan. If you like the Notre Dame fight song, the staunch adherence to keeping the uniforms largely unchanged (for the most part), and the great history behind Notre Dame stadium, you're probably more likely to respect Notre Dame as a program.
And that makes beating them all the more satisfying.
There's a great little debate about the two schools' merit here, which is basically summed up by this exchange:
From what you all have said, Michigan and Notre Dame are both exciting and storied programs, which is good, but it doesn't exactly narrow it down for me any further.
Not just storied - the most storied. Kind of like picking the two hottest supermodels in the world and trying to ask people which one is better-looking.
If you're less inclined to like Notre Dame's tradition, obviously the respect factor plummets.
It's a well known story that Michigan went down to South Bend and literally taught the game of football to the students so they could have a match. What has resulted in a long, storied history between the two programs. And the fans are a lot alike, too. Via One Foot Down's (SB Nation's resident ND blog) post on Michigan Stadium:
Overall, I think there isn’t a fan base that more closely resembles Notre Dame’s than Michigan fans.
So, yeah. Take that for what it's worth.
I think you're generally going to find that older fans consider the Michigan - Notre Dame rivalry more intense, which explains Leroy's sentiment. Not only did Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler have a long bout with Knute Rockne, but Schembechler himself got fed up with Notre Dame and took them off the schedule because playing them didn't contribute to his ultimate goal of winning the Big Ten championship.
I also think that the rivalry has really intensified in the last three to four years because of how close the games have been. Michigan has had Notre Dame's number three times in a row and that drives Irish fans crazy.
So, what do you guys think? Which rivalry is more intense: Michigan State, or Notre Dame?
Cast your vote and leave your explanation in the comments below!